I’ll Be Home for Easter

Literally, I will be home for Easter. My wife and I will be watching our church service on the television in our living room. I’ll miss seeing my brothers and sisters at church, but Easter will happen and God will be fine with it.

Some Christian pastors are not happy about this, and some Christians are stirring up a ruckus. For example, the president of the Claremont (CA) Institute, Ryan Williams, appears to be calling for civil disobedience.

I don’t understand the problem. I am naturally a skeptic and don’t like being ordered around, but I really like breathing. Taking rational precautions to avoid COVID-19 just seems smart. I can tell the difference between an arbitrary usurpation of my natural rights and a situational one in a crisis.

The Common Good 1918 Style

In 1918, the people of Claremont, CA apparently didn’t mind putting the common good ahead of their rights. With just a little bit of searching, I found this clipping from the October 26 edition of the Pomona Bulletin Sun.

During the Spanish Flu pandemic, churches all over the U.S. closed. There were some clergy who complained but here is a truth: closing churches didn’t lead to a loss of religious rights. It was temporary and a benefit to all citizens. Christianity survived; some might say it thrived.

Some might protest, “But Easter?” Well, Easter is an important day in Christianity to be sure. But Christians aren’t supposed to worry about how we keep “holy days.” The book of Colossians tells us, “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.” (2:16).

In my tradition, I get no more grace or credit for going to church on Easter than any other day. The first Easter the grave was empty. This year our church will be pretty empty too. But that’s okay. If He is taking attendance, God can keep track of where we all are.

On the Constitutional question, legal scholar Jonathan Turley opined today that the state has the right to halt church gatherings temporarily. I agree that the state has a compelling interest in stopping the spread of the virus and has not singled out religion or any particular church. The edicts are temporary, impose no permanent harm on churches, and do not prevent other means of worship (e.g., online). Although untested, I agree with Turley that the courts would likely uphold the orders to close.

But I really cringe to hear about churches taking things to that extreme. Christians are not of this world, but we are in it. And if we are going to do any good in it, we shouldn’t put our desire to meet for a church service over the good of our neighbors.


The technology of 1918 was the local newspaper and pastors used the papers to communicate with their congregations. The Pomona Bulletin Sun (11/3/1918) gave local pastors space to give greetings to their flock at home.

I appreciate this winsome word from Methodist preacher Walter Buckner:


30 thoughts on “I’ll Be Home for Easter”

  1. I have been reading a book written by counselor Chuck DeGroat called “When Narcissism comes to Church.” Here is a worthy quote:

    “This is about us. Indeed, we all participate in narcissistic systems. Perhaps these systems are part and parcel of the “powers and principalities” Eph. 6:12 with which we contend. Perhaps they are all around us, not just in church systems but in our corporate and political institutions, even in our social media connections and our broader tribal identifications. Perhaps this is about us, an invitation to wake up to the many ways in which certainty trumps curiosity, uniformity trumps unity, hubris trumps humility, control trumps connection, loyalty trumps love.” – Page 115

    I have no doubt we are in the middle of a judgment of our idolatry of celebrity status and our own happy support for narcissistic systems that please us and, in some case, personally enrich us monetarily in ways that are not good for anyone including ourselves. (see 1 Tim. 6:9) Choosing to focus on celebrity deaths while ignoring the deaths of ones Jesus called “the least of us” is just one example of something Christians should be actively repenting of…

    1. “Perhaps this is about us, an invitation to wake up to the many ways in which certainty trumps curiosity, uniformity trumps unity, hubris trumps humility, control trumps connection, loyalty trumps love.”

      I like that … I have no doubt that we are being confronted with our own failure to live (individually and corporately) as we should, and the really important thing is what happens next …

        1. Indeed – and Trump* was (electorally?) gasping for ‘business as usual’ by Easter, I seem to recall. Horrible though this current situation is for so many people, it is perhaps a very good thing that he was denied his delusion; there is time to reflect and rethink … and hear more of that sublime birdsong.

          *It would, of course, be wrong to ‘demonize’ Trump over this: the responsibility is not by any means his alone. But he is vividly emblematic of so much that currently wrong, and is assuredly not the right person to lead in the aftermarth of this pandemic.

          1. If Trump were reelected, five more years of crisis would probably be a conservative estimate!

            Perhaps the saddest thing is that, despite this most appalling of crises, the USA remains split down the middle politically (this is in stark contrast to the situation in late 2001). But then it is hardly surprising, given that fat orange liars are never going to unite a country.

      1. Of one thing God has been crystal clear to me over the past year or so as far as what needs to happen next. God plainly states that He wants the nations to fear Him (Mal. 1:14) and His people too. (Exod. 20:20) I wrote what I wrote because this is what is written “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chron. 7:13

        In your own words, we should recognize our “failure to live as we should” and to repent, which means to be convicted while admitting the shame and then get God’s help to stop living as hypocrites. I cannot control the corporate part of that. I cannot force you or anyone else reading this to actually allow the conviction to set in, or publicly embrace the shame or actually follow through with that and live better in the future. I can only make sure that I do those things in order to secure my own future. I hope others will too. You should if you want God’s forgiveness, which does not happen outside repentance, and if you want Him to heal your own small world. God’s protection is for the truly penitent, and in these days we already need that greatly and will need even more in the not too distant future.

        1. The ‘corporate aspect’ of ‘living as we should’ can only truly be achieved by relating to others in the right way; you are right to say that it cannot be ‘forced’.

          I’m still very clear in my own mind that this pandemic is not an “act of God”: Christ never made anyone sick; he only ever healed. Furthermore, it is becoming horribly clear that the poorest and most marginalised, for whom there is special place in the heart of God, are being hardest hit. And this raises important questions about what fearing the Lord means in practice, doesn’t it?! And, as I’m sure you would agree, it means a great deal more than just ‘personal repentence’ …

          1. From the Revelation of Jesus Christ 6:7 “When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.” – Jesus opens a seal and a full quarter of mankind is killed in result.

            I am not going to argue with you when you just ignore what the scriptures say. God is not shy about claiming responsibility for what the insurance companies call “Acts of God.” Jesus is coming back in a violent political way and He says so Himself. But go ahead and just keep lying to yourself so that you never get the fear of God you need. There are many with you in a heard of lemmings going over the cliff.

          2. We’ll finish here, I think; it is clear we have different ideas about the nature of God, and now you are becoming somewhat waspish, using words like “lying” and talking of lemmings etc. But I think we agree on many practical issues …

  2. These people aren’t driven by a religious imperative, it’s political — the same pathological paranoia and mistrust of government shared by almost everyone on the far right (except when government works in their favor, of course). The sky is always falling with these people, with America on the brink of some tyrannical socialist takeover, despite the fact that conservative governance has been in the ascendancy for the last 40 years in this country culminating in the mendacious bumbling mess that’s in office right now.

    Of course, their paranoia immunizes them from any rational argument. Any rational person can easily understand the need for the temporary curtailment of certain civil liberties in dire circumstances, like the current pandemic, but the crazies just wail “Muh rights” and “Being a Christian is being made illegal” and stick their fingers in their ears. Thank goodness this virus isn’t as deadly as Ebola, otherwise they would have been a huge menace to everyone around them.

    The dumbest thing about it is that they believe themselves to be the most patriotic and proudest defenders of American values, but it’s quite the opposite. Their paranoid insecurities reveals a complete lack of confidence in the American people and institutions, and that the nation will prevail under this threat. They don’t deserve to be talked about in the same breath as the millions of people who are out there right now risking their lives to deliver essential services to people in their time of need.

  3. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2020/04/12/test-advocates-opening-country/

    Ryan P. Williams, the head of the previously well-respected and now crackpotish Claremont Institute, tweeted this past week in response to enforcement of social distancing and stay-at-home mandates: “It’s time for resistance to this insanity.” …

    In short, for every irresponsible and uninformed voice (including Trump’s) calling to reopen the economy, there are a cadre of independent, respected experts warning us not to take such reckless advice. Which voices will command the public’s attention?

    Let me suggest a simple test for those arguing for a quick return to business as normal absent a robust testing, contact tracing and quarantine program: You go first.

  4. Warren, what do you think about the idea that drive-through services are banned in some places but drive through restaurants are not? Wouldn’t that be an unconstitutional singling out of religion?

    (In KY, the drive ban was reversed by a court.)

    1. My guess is, drive through communion would classify as unregulated food service – i.e. food preparation and presentation without a proper health inspection first.

      After all the cases I’ve heard of transmission in church services, it wouldn’t surprise me.

      1. I was actually asking about drive-in services where everyone stays in their own car. No communion involved.

    2. I would have to hear the particulars. Our church leaders considered it and decided it wasn’t going to get us much that online services couldn’t do. I don’t think the analogy is tight but I also think you could have a drive in service where social distancing principles were observed.

      1. Here is a NY Times article about the case I was referring to: https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2020/04/11/us/ap-us-virus-outbreak-kentucky-4th-ld-writethru.html

        I was asking about the constitutionality aspect of it, not the benefit of it. We are doing online things right now and I don’t think this is religious persecution. But it does seem, in some cases, that some things are allowed for some places that are not allowed for churches. That aspect would seem unconstitutional because, at that point, churches are being singled out and treated differently than other places.

        1. If the facts turn out to show a singling out of religious services then I think that would be unconstitutional. People driving to a parking lot and sitting in their cars with the windows rolled up would not be a problem from a social distancing point of view and so it shouldn’t bring state scrutiny, in my opinion.

  5. I’ll be in my living room “attending” the service at the National Cathedral. It troubles me that (mostly) mega church pastors are complaining about First Amendment violations, but much more that they seem to be preaching words that sound eerily like:

    “… he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

    “‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”

  6. Our livestream worship services are “attended” by almost twice as many as attended on an average Sunday. Then they live on on YouTube and are watched by more people. We are realizing that when we are back there in person, an online presence may be something we still want to have.

  7. the cynic in me wants to say that a disease that prevents christians from gathering in churches might be god’s way of saying he isn’t happy with the way christians have been behaving lately. However, the realist recognizes that is no more true than the notion of god sending hurricanes and tornadoes because of gay weddings or spreading wildfires because of abortion

  8. “Some Christian pastors are not happy about this.”

    I don’t want to be too contrarian (because I’m largely in agreement), but it’s safe to assume most/all Christian pastors are not happy. That’s because it’s not okay. It’s why 93% of churches that are complying with the orders with a lot of sadness – not because we think God’s taking attendance, but because we miss celebrating with each other on the biggest story of our faith.

    But, yeah — right now’s not the time to flaunt our arrogance. My pastor (likely) has the virus and he’s staying at home as is his wife and children. We responded to all of this by cancelling a ton of things we spend a year planning and desiring. I’m sure a few are meeting because they think it’s not a big deal, but I’m guessing a few of these bad actors are simply seeking attention. It’s certainly fits with Howard-Browne’s history.

    1. Am I the only one who remembers Howard-Browne’s farcical “Laughing Revival” in the mid-90s?

  9. I belong to a church choir. Our last rehearsal before the quarantine was 3/12. I just didn’t feel good about going, so I sent word that I wouldn’t make it that night. Then, I read an article about the church choir in Washington and all the people who became ill after a rehearsal and several who died. The kind of social closeness that defines churches and other kinds of activities is what the virus thrives on. We are being kind to our neighbors when we close our churches. And, as has been said so many times, the church is not the building, it’s the people of God wherever they are gathered.
    Christ is risen; He risen indeed. That is true, whether or not we are in a building tomorrow morning.

  10. No reason to push it. This is just temporary, and eventually we’ll be in fellowship again… Look to the light, not the dark…

Comments are closed.